This will be a massive week for those awaiting a new episode of your favorite Disney show or waiting for production to start on that new movie you’ve been waiting for. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is voting this week on whether or not to authorize a strike on May 1 should negotiations with movie and television studios not come to a resolution on a new contract before that date.
The WGA and the studios are at odds over money, as usual. The median pay for writers has dropped four percent over the past decade. Compared to just a third a decade ago, half of all television series writers work at minimum salary levels.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing nearly all studios, including Disney, has said it hopes to reach a “mutually beneficial” deal.
Writers have more opportunities than ever to work in the industry. There were 599 television shows produced in 2022, an all-time high, and writers received a record $493.6 million in residuals.
Screenwriter John August, who is a member of the Guild, told Reuters:
We feel like we’ve been undervalued for years. This is the moment to really have a conversation about how we’re making television right now and making sure writers are paid properly.
The looming strike comes at an awful time for both writers and the studios. Disney recently began laying off 7,000 workers, mostly in television and movies. Disney CEO Bob Iger estimates that eliminating those positions will save the Walt Disney Company more than $5.5 billion.
Studios are also facing increased pressure from Wall Street investors to ensure their streaming services remain profitable. The only way to do that is with more content the writers provide.
Of course, television and movie audiences would be affected as well. Late-night shows, like Disney-owned ABC’s Late Night with Jimmy Kimmell, would cease production immediately. Daytime soaps would follow within a week. Most scripted television shows film about a month or two out, so they would take longer to be affected.
Any movies being written, such as Disney’s new live-action Moana or the recently announced three new Star Wars films, would be delayed for as long as the strike lasted.
The last writer’s strike was in 07-08 and lasted 100 days. The total cost to the economy of California was $2.1 billion, as most of the shows are written and filmed in the Golden State.
Should the writers vote to give the union strike authorization this week, it does not necessarily mean there will be one. The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will continue negotiating until the May 1 deadline. Hopefully, a strike can be avoided.
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